Friday, March 06, 2015

A different flashback Friday.

I always joke that if I had been more confident with my body during my college years, I would have been foot loose and fancy free! I would have walked around buck nekkid, proudly displaying what the my mama gave me and sowed my wild oats. If I had listened to what my older friends told me - "You're going to look back and wish you had appreciated your looks!" -  rather than wishing I was a size 2 or 0, I would've loved myself more.
I don't know. I'm politically liberal but, regarding sex, I've always been very conservative. By that I mean my own going-ons. It was hard for me to separate the physical act with the emotional ties. I equated it with love. Believe me, I'm not saying this is right. I think it's a much more fun outlook to keep the two separated! But that's just how it is. I'm somewhat a serial monogamist.
But surprise! That's not what this post is about. Because I would have, however, had no problem flaunting my bod if I had only been more confident. And by confident, I mean not giving an eff of what other people thought about me. I had (yes, past tense) been blessed with a flat stomach. Not a hard stomach, mind you, but flat. How lucky was I?  Unfortunately, I couldn't really appreciate it at the time because I wish it had been flatter and smaller.
Now, at 36 years of age, I'm much more sympathetic of my body. Sure, I brush my fingers over what I think look like angry stretch marks, sigh, and wish they would disappear. But I also think, "my poor body." I've had four pregnancies - one cesarean section, two laparoscopic surgeries, and one vaginal birth. Oh, I have also breastfed one baby and am currently breastfeeding another. My word. Poor, poor body. I've fed myself crap, fed myself good stuff, but mostly fed my body crap. It wasn't until recently I cared about wholesome, nutritious, organic food. I've stepped it up quite a bit, thank goodness.
I have been so harsh, so judgmental. I've unfairly compared my body to the bodies of movie stars, starlets, pinups, beautiful family members and friends ... why compare at all? I've hated, HATED, my poor body when all it has has done is gone through so much. My self-loathing wasn't just about appearance but I've also been so angry about the miscarriages. How dare my body not do what it's been made to do!
But I've gotten a lot better. I've still got plenty of things to work on but I think the first was to eat better. Going hand in hand with that is to be kinder and more understanding. I know my body will never be a size 2 or 0 unless I'm depressed (it's true.) I now have a realistic goal to shoot for which has been deemed by medical professionals as healthy. So important! I also am proud of what my body has done. We've come back from two full-term births. The strain my body endured! Not to mention being shattered, seriously, shattered from the last birth. I'd say it took about six months for everything to heal internally. Poor, poor body.
I'm still hovering about 3-4 lbs from my goal weight. I get frustrated and angry that I haven't made it yet but I also know that my body is fitting clothes better than it has in a long, long time. I also know that I haven't exactly restricted myself from goodies like chocolate so how much is it my mind rather than my body? My body can only do so much by itself.
I know that I will backslide. I know that I will get very angry and upset with myself, my body. But I hope I will revisit this post and remember to be kind. Be forgiving. This body has done so much for me.
-------------------------------
I was going to wait until I reached my goal weight but then decided, what the heck! The belly ring is back in. One might think, "She's too old to have a belly ring!" To hell with that, I say! It was either I keep it out and have a small scar or put it back in and rock it. I decided to rock it.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

When I told her I loved her very much...

...she asked, "as high as the sky?"
"Yes!"
"Bigger than the world?" she asked.
"Yes!"
She captured it perfectly. My love is higher than the sky and bigger than the world for her and our family. What's funny is she will most likely forget this conversation but I wanted to be sure to remember. Because the description she created to illustrate my love for her is what I want to tell her and The Bean for the rest of my life.

While we were having this conversation in the car before school.






- Posted using BlogPress via iPhone

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The city I live in

It's not a city, though. It's a town. 
According to about.com: In most places in the U.S. a town, village, community, or neighborhood is simply an unincorporated community with no governmental powers. (http://geography.about.com/library/faq/blqzcitytown.htm) 
I had to paste that in there because what I know about being in a town versus a city is that we have no mayor, the county sheriffs' department patrols the area and we don't have a city council.
A view of most of Castro Valley.

I love my little town. Castro Valley is very nice without being high-falutin'. The Man and I are working class folk. We like that our community is a little quirky. We have a hodgepodge of neighborhoods - some well thought out, a lot "organically grown" throughout the decades. We have young families, senior citizens, and just about everything in between. I love how authentically diverse it is - ethnically, socioeconomically, religiously, sexually, generationally ... you name it, we just about have it. Except for nightlife. We definitely do not have a party scene. Which is perfect for us because we need a family friendly town. I'll be honest, if I was single and in my 20s, San Francisco or thereabouts would definitely be the place for me. But I'm not and I'm not;) For what we want and need, Castro Valley is just about perfect for us.
We wanted:
1. A very good to great school district
2. To live close to my parents
3. A safe community where our kids could enjoy growing up
4. In the Bay Area
5. It to be affordable
I don't feel comfortable saying we had to "sacrifice" anything because, truly, I'm grateful for what we have. So let me just call these slight inconveniences we are happy to deal with:
1. Downsized living arrangements
2. Only 2 good restaurants in town
Not bad, right? We moved from a stand alone, two-story house to a two-story townhouse-style condominium. Say whaa? I know. Our home looks and feels like a townhouse but it's a condo. What's interesting is that even though it's smaller than our old house, it's a four-bedroom home as opposed to our old three-bedroom house. The layout of our current home is much more efficient with space and, in our eyes, a better design. In our old home, we had a master bedroom that was much larger than the other two bedrooms. Downstairs, we had a living room and a dining room but no bedroom. What drove us crazy is there wasn't even a small closet so there was no place to put coats or things like a vacuum. 
While it is annoying to pay more for a smaller space, not to mention we pay a much higher HOA fee, the trade-off is a safer community and a better school district. Due to moving into a smaller space, we're also forced to downsize if we didn't want to feel cluttered. We're still working on it, actually. We have a lot of "stuff" and we continue to work on living a more streamline and simpler lifestyle. 
I took this photo on what I believe is the day we received our keys. That was back in 2013.
I'm surprised by how much I like my neighborhood. You see, our dream home is a one-story home where we hardly see our neighbors. The Man would like to live on a farm and do things like till the land. I would like to live in a beach cottage by the sea and shop regularly at a farmer's market. Slightly different goals. (We shall see how it all shakes out when we retire!) So obviously our home is very different than our dream homes. But our neighborhood is one of those that was well thought out when it was created. There are many of us, I think 180+ units, but it is very quiet. I'm thankful we don't live near party animals, reckless or inconsiderate individuals. Most of the residents are families and I think it's safe to assume most of us moved here for the schools. I wish we had larger streets and sidewalks but the grounds are beautifully kept. We also have very good security and watchful neighbors so there is little to no crime. Our HOA is also pretty on top of it. So much so that we had our hands slapped when we updated all our windows to more energy efficient ones the day after our contractor started the project. We were supposed to clear it with HOA first. Oops. But it also illustrated just how much they pay attention. This is very important to us since we had been burglarized at our old home where our HOA supposedly had a security service. 
Another perk is that we have great trails and walking areas (thankfully we do have sidewalks outside of my neighborhood) that make for a good workout. We also have a very nice Olympic-sized pool that I like to try to escape to every so often. 
It feels spa-like. My only critique is I wish it were heated. But then my HOA fees would be even higher so ... never mind.

About the quality of restaurants: The Man and I were shocked - and I don't write this lightly - how there are very few good restaurants in Castro Valley. There are exactly two that we like enough to frequent. The rest are bad to mediocre, at best. "How is this possible?" we thought. We live in the Bay Area, a food mecca! Well, it may be the large retirement population in the area but, in general, the food is bland. Even the chain restaurants which are usually a safe bet. And it's not just us. Many people we've spoken to have echoed our sentiments. It's inconvenient when we're hungry and not in the mood to go out because all the places that deliver aren't anything we crave. We've tried, believe me, and have been disappointed again and again. But seriously, such a first world problem. Which is why I have to label these two things "small inconveniences" rather than "sacrifices." 
There you have it, the town I live in. I don't know if we will stay here once the kids graduate from school because we can't imagine paying these HOA fees once we retire. But for right now and the next 18 years, this is where we plan on staying. I love it here because it's exactly what my family needs - a safe and lovely place to live and grow. I feel absolutely blessed to live in a nice home, in a nice town, near my parents and the village it takes to raise our babies. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Best Valentine's Day with my little family

This past Valentine's weekend was one of the best family weekends to date. We decided to go to Pacifica because it was a beautiful day. Since it's on the coast, we fully expected it to be 10 degrees cooler than our town. We thought we would enjoy looking at the beach, eat lunch and just walk around.
It ended up being an absolutely beautiful day. Instead of being cooler, I think it may have even been warmer than where we live. We were ill-prepared for a day at the beach but still had an awesome time. We had a late breakfast at a diner and then headed over to a popular beach. We found free parking (if you know anything about the Bay Area, you know that basically means your day is set), and headed over to to the beach.
The Bun was stoked. We rolled up our pants and waded in the water. I had The Bean in my carrier and we enjoyed the sunshine.

Getting bunny-eared by his daddy.
Family self-portrait. Poor baby boy didn't quite make it in the shot.
Depending on the kindness of a stranger for this shot. I think it's my favorite<3

The Man stayed with The Bean while The Bun & I climbed a hill. Cliff? It was steep! Can you see us? We decided to stop not much farther than when this was photographed. We were in flip flops and it wouldn't have ended pretty. But I was proud of us for being adventurous. I think we basically climbed a path for goats.
We had to cross the stream twice. It was slippery and, again, we had poor footwear for this. But we did it and The Bun loved it.
It was such a beautiful day, we agreed we wanted to try and repeat it. The worrier in me wondered if it would fall flat because sometimes you just can't repeat a good thing. But I'm glad it wasn't the case. The second time around we were more prepared - this could be a good thing as well as a bad thing. The good, of course, is that we could comfortably lounge on the beach because we had blankets. The Bun could also play in the water because she had a bathing suit and a change of clothes. The Man and I were also more suitably dressed in shorts and tanks. The downside was that we weren't as mobile, meaning we couldn't easily pack up, leave, and then return like we could the day before. Leaving the beach would be a permanent decision this time around. And someone had to stick around to watch all our belongings. The good, however, greatly outweighed the inconvenient!
It was absolutely gorgeous. We normally don't get too many beach days in February.
I took a 45 minute walk on the beach w/ The Bean in the carrier. It was so nice to explore, get some fresh air and get some exercise. I walked in the water and the closer I got to the bluff, the rockier the sand felt. Ouch! But well worth the exploration. Just gorgeous.
Had a little photo fun with my son. We stayed on the blanket while his sister and Daddy played in the water. Considering how cold the water was, I was pretty happy with our end of the deal.
Fate was on our side. Although we didn't have reservations, Moonraker sat us in one of their premium booths (well, just about all their booths had an amazing view). The deal was that we had to leave before their 6:30 PM reservation came. No problem! I had a drink (The Man had a coffee) before our delicious dinner.
We even caught the sunset. It was absolutely breathtaking. Caught my little girl checking it out and had to laugh. Perfect way to end the day. 
With all the planning one has to do as parents, it was nice to have a couple of unplanned yet marvelous family days. I think that's what really made it special. Before children, it was easy to have simple yet beautiful days with The Man or with my good friends. But, as I've learned, with precious cargo comes great responsibility:) We are one those couples that aren't so spontaneous because it makes our lives much better and easier when we plan. Having the rare opportunity to pack up ourselves and the kids with little to no planning yet have two really great days is a blessing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Something I've been given

I'm blessed with generous family and friends. I feel like I've been given a lot, tangible and intangible. What could I possibly write about? Well, the first thing to pop into my mind are my wedding rings.
I love my wedding rings.
I love what they symbolize and I think they're oh-so-pretty. Please don't think I'm shallow for the latter. I'm just glad that, nearly seven years later, I still find them to be just as beautiful as when I first laid eyes on them. They are classic and the diamond, while not perfect, is sparkly and bright. I'm certain I will love them 70 years from now, too.
I remember ring window shopping when we had been dating for just a couple of years. At that point, I was certain that I wanted a princess cut solitaire engagement ring. I thought it was beautiful, classic and simple. The Man wanted me to try it on, just to make sure. I was apprehensive. It felt like I was jinxing the whole thing. Like trying on wedding dresses without an engagement in sight. But he insisted so I chose a gorgeous sparkler of a ring and put it on.
It was hideous on me.
It was such a long time ago that I can't remember exactly what made it awful but it just didn't look right on my hand. I didn't like it at all and Gil said something like, "See? And this whole time, since you were a little girl, you thought you wanted this kind of ring. Aren't you glad you tried it on?"
Years later (and I mean, YEARS) from that window shopping date, The Man finally proposed. Even though he had asked me what kind of setting I liked, I was still surprised by how beautiful the engagement ring was.
He will sometimes tease me and say, "You're wearing my truck right there." (He had talked about wanting to buy a truck but said he had to divert funds to another cause. Ah-hem.) I know he looked and looked, trying find the perfect-for-me ring. By the end of it, he knew way more about diamonds and settings than I ever did. As with all weddings rings, they mean a lot. It's a symbol of your vows to one another and how you commit to being together for eternity.
Pretty serious stuff.
There you have it. Something I've been given that mean a lot to me.
Oh yah! I wanted to mention this. Just the other day, The Bun looks lovingly at my rings and said, "I wish I could have wedding rings." And I told her, "One day you will, baby."
She then said, "But I have to wait so long."
So then I said, "Well, one day these could be yours. When I die, you can have them."
To which she replied, "Oh goody!" (I don't hold it against her. She's 5 and speaks the unfiltered truth.)  But then she got a sad look and said, "But I don't want you to die!" (Well, that's better.)

Sunday, February 01, 2015

A family member

My brother, Donnie, is eight years older than me. He is diagnosed with autism and mental retardation. He lives in a group home one city over and needs constant care - bathroom care, day and evening care - basically, the care you would give a toddler or small child but he is an adult.
Donnie can't speak and knows minimal sign language. He is gentle and only uses his strength when he wants to take food. His vice is food and often times his medication makes him crave food, even when he is full, to the point where he will vomit from eating too much. But he is not violent. He is 5'4" and, as of last year, people now ask if he is younger than me. He has flawless tan skin, big almond eyes and my mom says he looks young because he doesn't have a worry in the world.
My parents spent most of his life worrying about him. There came a point when Donnie became too strong, he wasn't quite a teenager yet, and they had to seek help to take care of him. In the early 80s, he lived in a nice group home in Malibu where he got to do things like horseback riding. But his behavior changed to the point in which it disqualified him from living there. I don't know if "disqualify" is the proper term but essentially he was too difficult for them to handle. He wasn't his mild-mannered self and he had started doing things like soiling his pants. The staff found it too hard to take care of him. To be fair, there is a certain grade or functioning level that all clients need to be at in a home (they have to be similar enough so the staff can take care of them) and my brother wasn't behaving at that level.
But to be fair to Donnie, doctors figured out much later that it wasn't my brother's fault - he had a bad reaction to one of his medications. Or two of his many medications clashed with each other, bringing on the unusual behavior. I forgot which one it was but it changed his life.
My brother then lived in a state institution in Sonoma for many years. During this time, I was in grade school and then high school. I wish I could tell you I was more involved in my brother's life but I was a bit too self-centered  and immature, leaving him  and the situation all up to our parents. I remember, though, visiting my brother and being scared to get him. It was a large institution filled with patients with varying degrees of mental illnesses. I remember touring and, just like you would see in the movies with insane asylums, there were medical staff behind a square class enclosures while patients wandered the hallways.
At the end of all our visits, my parents would have to bribe my brother with snacks (I guess food has always been his vice) to get him to get out of the car and walk him back inside the building and to his room. I never thought about it back then but I'm certain it was a scary place for him. He is not violent and when people show aggression, he cowers. I'm not saying this because I love him but he truly is a gentle soul.
I forgot to mention that the one time I did tour the facility, a female patient grabbed my ponytail and pulled. No staff helped so my dad finally had to grab her wrist and squeeze hard so she would let go. My parents never made me get out of the car to walk him back to his room after that.
My dad worked nights so my mom would attend these meetings for parents who had children in this institution. I found out later that it was because they were banding together to sue the state. They knew their children were unsafe. It's been a long time so I can't remember if one parent had a daughter who got pregnant or found out that his daughter had been raped. Either way, it was horrific. These parents, along with my parents, wanted the state to pay for their children to be in decent group homes and not in an institution that couldn't properly take care of them. Remember, my brother never wanted to go back to his room at the end of our visits.
I don't know what my brother endured there or life, in general. He cannot talk and has the mind of very young boy in a grown man's body. But he cannot talk or defend himself. I don't want to think about what has happened to him or what awful people may have done to him. My mom said that she had heard from a staff member that there was a patient who picked on him and would throw his shoes on the roof. I sincerely hope that was all that has been done to him. Donnie is a vulnerable soul who depends on the kindness and love of individuals. Sure, we all kind of do but he is like a little boy. I know my parents worried and continue to worry that no evil goes near him but isn't it awful to know that you just never know?
I've written about my belief in God and still having a lot of questions. I do believe, though, that my brother is an angel on earth. He is completely innocent and doesn't understand sin. One of the things I struggle with is why can't God protect innocent beings like him, babies, young children and the truly vulnerable. Why wicked people are allowed to hurt those who cannot protect themselves. It makes me cry thinking about it.
I wish my brother and I could talk. I wish I could do more for him and be a better sister. Most of all, I wish that he could only be surrounded by people who only mean to do right by him. It's something I pray for just about every day.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Family

I was born and raised in the Bay Area, specifically, the East Bay. I stayed in the Bay Area to go to college (Go, SF State!) and have worked throughout the Bay Area, except for the South and North Bays. I'm not just a California girl, I'm a Bay Area native.
I think a ton of it has to do with my family. My parents and brother live in the East Bay. I have quite a bit of extended family here, as well. Long time family friends are considered uncles and aunties.
I've thought about moving. I had wanted to go to LA to attend a university, love where my sister lives in Washington and adore vacationing in Hawaii. I've even thought about the Philippines just because, when I'm there, I love all the extended family I get to see.
But there's something about being able to see my parents whenever I want to. There's something about knowing my kids are loved when they're being taken care of by their Nana and Papa. And there's something to be said about having a village - my family - surrounding me when there are tough times.
My parents are probably the first ones to drive me crazy but there's also the people (along with my brother and sister) who I've loved the longest in my life. I wish my sister lived closer - she's one of my best friends. I'm so grateful my parents, along with the state, found a good home for my autistic brother so he's close by.
I was raised in a religion I know longer practice but time and time again it preached the importance of family. What made an even stronger impact on my view of family is how my parents treated their brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews ... and us.
My parents were both the first in their families to immigrate to the United States. They knew very few people and they had no one helping them out - no trust funds, no allowances, nothing. Not only did they support themselves but they sent money back home to their parents to help support their siblings. Then, when their brothers and sisters wanted to follow them, my parents took the time and effort to petition each of them. And then provided them a free place to stay and eat while they figured out their employment. My parents also gave money if they could or provided loans to family members to help them get on their feet. Now we all know how that can damage a relationship but my parents also knew how much it would help. My parents also gave money and whatever else they could to nieces and nephews who needed it. Sometimes they would even argue about it because a family member would go to one of them, specifically, and without talking about it, one of my parents would go ahead and lend or give them the money. My parents did and continue to attend all events - birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals and everything in between - to show that they love and care.
And then there's how they treated me. I was fortunate to be born when my parents were financially established. They weren't rich but they weren't stretched too thin anymore. My sister remembers when my dad would fry bologna to make it a little fancier. I also remember using powdered milk for a while when my aunt and her kids lived with us but never thought anything of it. Because despite us living in a lower income area, I never wanted for anything. (That just goes to show that my parents also know how to live within their means - my mom has the ability to squeeze two pennies together and make a dollar. She had a medical career but I believe her true calling was in finance.) My dad always made sure we had delicious Filipino home-cooked meals, my mom always made certain I had the latest and greatest technology for school, and they entertained whatever silly trend was happening, whether it be dolls, clothes or hair accessories. If my mom and dad thought my requests were somewhat reasonable, I got whatever it is I wanted. They certainly vetoed things that they thought were too extravagant but I was most definitely a blessed child.
I think part of their goal or dream was to make sure their kids got what they didn't. My parents made sure I didn't pay a single dime for my education. The only money I paid was my first year of graduate school. And that was just the tuition, they paid for books, transportation and even gave me an allowance. OK, I know that was a bit spoiled. But when I expressed guilt, my mom said that I was educating myself so she wanted to support that. She and my dad wanted me to focus on my studies and that meant not working unless the job supported my education. Who does that???
My parents.
They continue to show generosity with their time and funds towards my children. My daughter is the apple of their eye and she gets so many dresses and accessories from her Nana and Papa during the holidays. And throughout the year! Just because my parents saw something in the store and thought their granddaughter would love it.
I jokingly tell my mom that I pulled her out of retirement again now that she takes care of The Bean. Five years, the last time I had a newborn, has taken a toll on them. They both move slower, they've got more ailments and, quite simply, have grown older. But they, especially my mom, wants to help me. She knows that she is saving me a lot of money by watching my son full-time but she also said it gives her peace knowing he is with people who love him and want to do no harm. Because of our schedules, it's not an easy task. The Man has to take our son to my parents because I can't take him to my parents and The Bun to school and make it to work in time. So The Man takes The Bean before work which means dropping him off at my parents a little after 5:00 in the morning.
I know, right? Talk about being yanked out of retirement. My mom, his primary care giver, watches him for about 12 hours of the day. She could be doing anything else but for five days a week, she watches my son for 12 hours. This is how she and my dad show their love for me and for my son.
I used to think all grandparents are like this. From what I hear from friends, there are quite a few that are. But there are also many grandparents who have told their kids that they are done raising babies and they want to relax. I'm so very blessed that my parents don't take that point of view. They see an opportunity to help me out so they do.
From time to time, I moan and groan about wanting to rest, about wanting "me" time. But then I remember just how much my parents have sacrificed and how much harder they've had it than me and I realize that I should really just grin and bear it. They've always made family #1 and I hope to instill that kind outlook in my kids.